Asthma Symptom You Should Know
Did you know that as many as one in three adults who currently have an asthma diagnosis may be misdiagnosed?
You read that right, folks!
A recent Canadian study, performed on 613 adults who had been diagnosed with asthma within the past five years, did pulmonary function tests. The participants who took asthma medications were weaned off their medications over the course of four clinic visits to see how they performed without medications.
After four visits, 203 people were found not to have asthma, meaning that a prior clinician had misdiagnosed them.
So, why were they diagnosed with asthma in the first place?
One of the researchers, Dr. Shawn Aaron, of the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, notes that asthma can be very difficult to diagnose because while there is a specific set of symptoms, not every patient has every sign. Also, several conditions can mimic asthma, and that have similar treatment plans.
We will first discuss conditions that mimic asthma, and then we’ll explain asthma symptoms in great detail.
Other Conditions that Mimic Asthma
It is important to have an understanding of what types of conditions may mimic asthma. Why? Because even clinicians, with years of medical training, can make a mistake when it comes to proper diagnosis.
These conditions all have a symptom (or several) that mimics asthma:
- Sinusitis – an inflammation of the sinuses, you may also hear this called a “sinus infection.” It is not uncommon, however, for sinusitis to occur in conjunction with asthma.
- Myocardial ischemia – inadequate blood flow to the heart, and an emergency situation. The symptom that mimics asthma is typically shortness of breath, but likely you’d also be having chest pain, which would hopefully alert your physician (and you!) to emergency treatment.
- Upper airflow obstruction – when the upper airways are obstructed, such as by a tumor or an enlarged thyroid gland.
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – a virus that causes wheezing and pneumonia in young children and babies, which actually can lead to asthma later in life.
- Bronchiectasis – a lung disease that is caused by repeated infections of the lung, and causes injury to the walls of the airways of the lungs.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
The symptoms of asthma occur because there is an inflammation that occurs in the bronchial tubes. This inflammation causes an increased production of mucus, which subsequently sets off a cascade of symptoms.
We’ve all had a cough before. However, when a cough lingers, it points to something a bit more chronic – such as asthma. A cough that is considered chronic is when the cough lasts longer than eight weeks and can be a telltale symptom of asthma.
Coughs serve a purpose; a cough is meant to remove foreign objects and bacteria that make us ill. There are also two types of coughs – productive and nonproductive. A productive cough is when mucus, also known as phlegm, is expelled. A cough is considered nonproductive when no phlegm is expelled.
An asthmatic cough may also serve a purpose – when phlegm is produced as a result of asthma, the body needs to remove this phlegm, so the cough develops. Sometimes the cough is nonproductive, and this occurs because of swelling and inflammation in the airways.
There is also a variant of asthma called cough-variant asthma, where the hallmark symptom is a nonproductive cough. Those with cough-variant asthma typically have no other classic symptoms of asthma aside from a cough.
It’s also easy to blame a cough on something else, such as a cold or allergies. It is important to look at the context of the cough. What triggers the cough? Examples of common asthma cough triggers may include:
- Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, weeds, and trees
- Indoor allergens, such as mold, dust mites, and pet dander
- The environment, such as humidity, cold air, and rapidly changing weather
- Smoke, air pollution, and strong odors
- Colds, flu viruses, and other illnesses
- Certain medications and food additives
Wheezing is one of the most common symptoms associated with asthma. The wheeze can often be heard even without a doctor or nurse placing a stethoscope to your chest or back.
A wheeze occurs when air moves through the airways that have narrowed due to inflammation and mucus buildup. This narrowing creates a high-pitched “whistle” as you breathe, and it may become increasingly difficult for air to flow through the lungs. The wheeze may be heard on either the inhale or exhale.
Next page: More common symptoms of asthma.